In case you haven’t figured it out yet, we are doing the South Beach Diet here in this house. Which means more veggies, lean protiens and complex carbs. The white stuff is out. No white flour, white rice etc.
You may not know that I took some culinary classes about 6 years back, which ended up serving me very well when I got laid off. I was drawn to baking and pastry and after the job loss, I did a stint at a local artisan bakery. So, essentially, I know bread.
Making bread isn’t complicated, but I personally think that you gotta get a “feel” for it. Flour can hold more moisture on any given day, which will affect your final dough. Yeast ferementation changes based on temperature and other factors. Bread is simple… but bread making can be complex.
Take away my white flour and now you’ve got a whole ‘nuther bag of hammers.
Whole grains can be bitter. If you’ve ever had a slice of whole wheat bread that made your mouth pucker, you know what I mean. I do think it’s the reason most people don’t like whole grain bread.
It’s also the reason that most commercial whole wheat breads have a ton of dough conditioners as well as added sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup. It’s an attempt to cut the bitterness and to give the dough some elasticitiy.
Most commercial breads are made quickly. You know why Wonderbread is so freakishly white and flavorless while an artisan bread has a lovely cream color? Because the flour in the Wonderbread isn’t given any time to go through enzymatic changes that develop the flavor and color.
During my culinary classes, I discovered Peter Reinhart and promptly went out and bought his book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice which I recommend very hightly for someone just getting into bread baking. He has all the chemistry.. the “why” of things. And he talks a lot about using preferments to coax out flavor and texture. The foccacia recipe is amazing and I used it when I worked a local farmers market for a while. It sold like mad. LB says there is heroin in it, it’s so good.
Alas, bread making has been off the list since starting the South Beach Diet.. at least until I discovered that Peter had a new book out called Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads.
I picked it up a few months ago and true to form, we have preferments and now we’ve added in soakers. A soaker is flour, salt and water that is allowed to sit out for 24 hours to get the enzymatic action going.
This is the biga preferment (left) and the soaker (right) from the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough I made over this past weekend.
That biga had been fermenting for about 12 hours in that picture. The soaker had been 2 hours out at room temperature.
Making the final dough requires adding a little more yeast, a smidge of olive oil and some more salt are added. This recipe calls for a bit of honey, which is optional. I chose to replace the honey with Agave syrup. .. mostly because I had it and I need to use it up. Also, agave doesn’t spike your blood sugar so it’s much more South Beach Diet Friendly than honey. Next time, I’m going to try it without. I would have this time as well, but I need to use that agave syrup up.
I normally mix all these by hand, but I wanted to break out the big momma mixer
I did the majority of the mixing in Big Momma, but did the final kneading my hand. I love kneading a well made bread dough. Slightly tacky, silky smooth and a joy to work with. Ohmmmm….
I divided the dough into four equal parts and rounded them up. I sprayed the inside of four ziploc bags with baking spray, popped two in the freezer for later and two in the refridgerator for pizza the next day. I could have used them right then, if I wanted.
The next day, you take the dough out about 2 hours before you want to use it so it comes to room temperature. The book has some excellent info on shaping pizza dough and how to bake it off. But I’m old hat at this.
Next time, I’d make the dough a little thinner before baking off as well as letting my oven heat my stone up a lot longer. I was impatient. But it was still exceptionally tasty, not bitter at all and full of fantastic flavor.
If you have any desire to make your own healthy whole grain breads, pick up a copy of Peter’s book. You will learn a lot about how to make artisan breads in your home kitchen that are incredibly flavorful and much healthier for you.